Letters

Letters 07-21-2014

Disheartened

While observing Fox News, it was disheartening to see what their viewers were subjected to. It seems the Republicans’ far right wing extremists are conveying their idealistic visions against various nationalities, social diversities or political beliefs with an absence of emotion concerning women’s health issues, children’s rights, voter suppression, Seniors, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid...

Things That Matter

All of us in small towns and large not only have the right to speak on behalf of our neighbors and ourselves, we have the duty and responsibility to do so -- and 238 years ago, we made a clear Declaration to do just that...

An Anecdote Driven Mind

So, is Thomas Kachadurian now the Northern Express’ official resident ranter? His recent factfree, hard-hearted column suggests it. While others complain about the poor condition of Michigan’s roads and highways, he rants against those we employ to fix them...

No On Prop 1

Are we being conned? Are those urging us to say “yes” to supposedly ”revenue neutral” ballot proposal 1 on August 5 telling us all the pertinent facts? Proposal 1 would eliminate the personal property tax businesses pay to local governments, replacing its revenue with a share of Michigan’s 6 percent use tax paid by us all on out-of-state purchases, hotel accommodations, some equipment rentals, and telecommunications...

Fix VA Tragedy

The problems within the Veterans Administration identified under former President Bush continue to hinder the delivery of quality health care to the influx of physically wounded and emotionally damaged young men and women...

Women Take Note

I find an interesting link between the Supreme Court Hobby Lobby and the crisis on the southern border. Angry protesters shout at children to go home. These children are scared, tired, hungry and thirsty, sent to US prisons awaiting deportation to a country where they may very likely be killed...


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The Nanny Diaries Offers an Underdog‘s Glimpse of Park Avenue

Nancy Sundstrom - June 27th, 2002
“Wanted: One young woman to take care of four-year-old boy. Must be cheerful, enthusiastic and selfless-bordering on masochistic Must relish sixteen-hour shifts with a deliberately nap-deprived pre-schooler. Must love getting thrown up on, literally and figuratively, by everyone in his family Must enjoy the delicious anticipation of ridiculously erratic pay. Mostly, must love being treated like fungus found growing out of employer‘s Hermes bag. Those who take it personally need not apply.“

Who wouldn‘t want that job, you might ask, the above being from the jacket of “The Nanny Diaries,“ a glitzy train wreck of a novel that defies you constantly to put it down.
It holds many points of fascination, with its detailed, insider’s look into the Park Avenue apartments where women wouldn’t be seen without being draped in Prada, children attend Mommy and Me groups with their sitters and peers named Brandford and Darwin, and fathers, when they deign to make their presences known at all, are stunningly oblivious to the needs of their families.
Welcome to the world of “The Nanny Diaries,“ an instantly addictive read that manages to be - all at the same time - hilarious, complex, befuddling, riotous, poignant, and more than a bit sad, much like child-rearing itself.
Written by two former Manhattan nannies, Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus, who bill this as a work of fiction though much of it seems to ring way too true, even for those in the unwashed masses that include this reviewer, this best-selling novel charts the path of a nanny by the same name who is attempting to find a job that is compatible with her child development classes at NYU.
This modern-day Mary Poppins finds herself in the employ of the remarkably self-possessed and absorbed Mrs. X and her infidel husband Mr. X, looking after four-year-old Grayer, a genuinely good child who seems destined for neuroses, if for no other reason than that he has a schedule built around esteem groups, ice skating and French lessons, and teachers who want Nanny’s “methodology“ for dressing him each morning.
As the book opens, we meet Nanny as she makes a visit to the posh Parents League, looking for work:

“I tune out the officious, creamy chatter of the women behind me to read the postings put up by other nannies also in search of employment.

“Babysitter need children very like kids vacuums“
“I look your kids Many years work You call me“

The bulletin board is already so overcrowded with flyers that, with a twinge of guilt, I end up tacking my ad over someone else’s pink paper festooned with crayon flowers, but spend a few minutes ensuring that I’m only covering daisies and none of her pertinent information.
I wish I could tell these women that the secret to nanny advertising isn’t the decoration, it’s the punctuation - it’s all in the exclamation mark. While my ad is a minimalist three-by-five card, without so much as a smiley face on it, I liberally sprinkle my advertisement with exclamations, ending each of my desirable traits with the promise of a beaming smile and unflagging positivity.

Nanny at the Ready!
Chapin School alumna available weekdays part-time!
Excellent references!
Child Development Major at NYU!

The only thing I don’t have is an umbrella that makes me fly.
I do one last quick check for spelling, zip up my backpack, bid Alexis adieu, and jog down the marble steps out into the sweltering heat.
As I walk down Park Avenue the August sun is still low enough in the sky that the stroller parade is in full throttle. I pass many hot little people, looking resignedly uncomfortable in their sticky seats. They are too hot even to hold on to any of their usual traveling companions - blankets and bears are tucked into back stroller pockets. I chuckle to myself at the child who waves away the offer of a juice box with a flick of the head that says, “I couldn’t possibly be bothered with juice right now.“ “

Nanny settles in with the X family, and the games begin. The hilarious (and equally appalling) Mrs. X sees both her employee and her son as yet another status symbol, and subjects Nanny to a steady stream of bizarre demands, passive aggressive missives written on expensive stationery, and condescension. The family’s lifestyle gives a new meaning to the term “dysfunctional“ in a way not even Jonathan Franzen did in his amazing novel “The Corrections,“ though under these authors’ microscope, it’s a pretty frightening picture.
On the down side, there’s the disintegrating marriage of the X’s, Nanny’s 24-7 attempts to ensure that “a Park Avenue wife who doesn‘t work, cook, clean, or raise her own child has a smooth day,“ class struggle modern day servitude issues (since when does attending the preschool’s Family Day or helping aid and abet her employer in carrying on his extramarital affairs fall into one’s job description, both the reader and Nanny wonder?), and especially, the fragile emotional well being and psyche of her young charge.
On the up side, there’s the deepening bond that builds between Grayer and Nanny, who quickly emerges as one of the most consistent figures in his privileged, yet deprived young life. Were their relationship not as well-crafted and touching as it is, this might be a rather unpleasant read, but you come to care quickly about both, which contributes greatly to this thoroughly entertaining tell-all.
If you’re into audio books, check out Julia Roberts lending her voice to that version, and count on this making its way to the big screen in the not-too-distant future, possibly with Kate Hudson starring as Nanny. In the meantime, though, put “The Nanny Diaries“ on your summer reading list, sit back, and enjoy the book that has everyone - from Park Avenue wives to young women pregnant with their first child - buzzing.

 
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